LA Kings Would Be Court Jesters If They Don’t Take Final Two Games Seriously
April 8, 2011 3 Comments
LOS ANGELES — After securing an invitation to the post-season party for the second consecutive season, the Los Angeles Kings were finally able to exhale and relax.
“It’s real exciting,” said rookie left wing Kyle Clifford. “It’s an honor. We’ve got a great team here, and we’re definitely looking forward to [the Stanley Cup Playoffs].”
But the Kings would be reduced to mere court jesters if they relax too much and look past the two big games remaining on their schedule, a home-and-home series against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks starting tonight at Honda Center in Anaheim, and ending about 24 hours later at Staples Center.
Indeed, the Kings cannot rest on their laurels, as they often have in the past. Rather, with star center Anze Kopitar on the shelf due to ankle surgery that will keep him out of action until next season, they need to play as if their lives depend on their final two games of the season.
Simply put, the Kings must secure fourth or fifth place in the Western Conference standings to set up a more favorable matchup in the first round of the playoffs, rather than face a likely sweep or a 4-1 drubbing in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, or the Detroit Red Wings, the top three teams in the West.
The Kings put in a solid effort in a 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes on April 6 to clinch a playoff berth.
“It’s a win that you want to have,” said head coach Terry Murray. “That’s a hard game to win, whenever those games are there for you to get into the playoffs, to still have an opportunity to get home ice advantage in the playoffs, so you’re looking at your team and saying, ‘guys, this is a game we’ve got to have.’”
“Those are the hard ones to win. The guys stepped up.”
Although they must be aware of the circumstances, the Kings were not about to say anything that would be bulletin board material for any potential first round opponent, so they focused on fourth place, which would earn them home ice advantage in the first round.
“Home ice is huge,” said center Jarret Stoll. “We want it. Our goal is, obviously, to make the playoffs, but home ice is there for us. We’re still playing for a lot. Two huge games. If we’re doing good things, we should have home ice because of it.”
“We can take a deep breath, and breathe out,” said Murray. “But we’ve got two big games ahead of us, another couple of big games against Anaheim. They’re playing very well. They won tonight against San Jose, so we want to keep going and get that home ice advantage.”
But even more important than home ice advantage is just getting their game to the level it needs to be at in the post-season.
“These last two games are a big test in getting our game where we want it to be for the playoffs,” Stoll stressed. “We’re in now, but there’s games all weekend here. We can’t worry about [who they might face in the first round]. We’ve got to worry about winning these two games, moving forward and getting our game ready.”
“It’s about just playing good,” Murray noted. “It’s about winning games in our division. It’s about doing the right thing, keeping our team prepared physically and emotionally for the playoffs.”
Noting that, as of the time of this writing, the Kings can still drop as low as eighth place in the conference, they cannot afford to lose tonight, and maybe even on Saturday.
If the Kings lose and drop below fifth place, they will ensure themselves a very quick exit from the first round of the playoffs, and yet another summer that is way too long.
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